The San Miguel Beermen dismantled Globalport Batang Pier, 95-69, on route to a 4-game winning streak and a share of the top spot. The game started out in normal fashion as both teams traded blows but the second quarter saw San Miguel shift into a different gear. They won the period 35-12, turning the close game into a blowout. It was one of the best quarters I have ever seen these Beermen play as their pressure defense and balanced attack led the way. From then on, they cruised to the easy win. Leading the way scoring-wise were the usual suspects, Arwind Santos and June Mar Fajardo, but that’s not to diminish the great team play they displayed. Practically every player Coach Leo Austria fielded in contributed positively.
The Beermen played a near-perfect game on both sides of the floor, none better exemplified by their defensive intensity. As I mentioned in my pregame, they would have to key in on two things: 1) the trio of Stanley Pringle, Terrence Romeo, and Alex Cabagnot and 2) 3-point shooting (#2 in the league in makes and accuracy). Amazingly enough, not only did they force Globalport into a miserable shooting night, they managed to stop ALL THREE of their prolific backcourt. Before this game, they would account on 46.3 points on 47.5% eFG%. In this game however, they only scored a measly 28 points on a horrendous 12/48 shooting clip, including 2/18 from deep. That’s an eFG% of just 26.5%. That’s the advantage of the deep guard rotation of San Miguel as they always had 2-3 good perimeter defenders to put on ‘CPR.’ They mostly did a good job of staying in front of them in one-on-one situations, forcing and challenging long jumpers. And even if they did blow past their initial defender, they would run straight into San Miguel’s bigs, forcing them to kick it out once again.
It wasn’t just Globalport’s big 3 that struggled as the entire team was cold from just about everywhere, most especially from three. Unfortunately for them, San Miguel is the second-best team in forcing 3-point misses (opponents shot just 28.2% before this game). If there was one thing they did well was attack the offensive glass, as they clearly won that category with 27 offensive rebounds leading to a huge advantage in field goal attempts. They had a staggering 104 attempts to just 69 for San Miguel. They didn’t really take advantage as San Miguel would play very good defense no matter how many extra attempts Globalport generated. Even with all the extra attempts, they ‘only’ converted 14 second chance points and had almost the same number of makes (30-31). That second quarter really did them in as they were ice cold for the rest of the game, even on open looks.
Tempo and Ball Movement
On the offensive end, what they did very well was control the tempo and share the ball. Early on in the first quarter, Globalport would send double-teams as soon as Fajardo touched the ball in the post. He made them pay by doing good reads and kicking it out to the open man, including a wide open 3 for Sol Mercado, his first of the conference. That pretty much set the pace for the game as they picked the defense apart very methodically, patiently waiting for an opening to attack. They also did a great job pushing the action when needed, once again, in the second period. They haven’t really run as much as before due to Coach Austria stressing the importance of halfcourt execution. But with guys like Chris Ross and Chris Lutz able to initiate and finish in transition, it would be a crime to let that ability go to waste. Luckily, that ability was in full display as they scored on the break when the opportunity presented itself. They were so good that it felt like they scored more than just the 11 fast break points that were recorded, much like these two:
These two look almost exactly the same: outlet by Ross to Lutz for an easy transition lay-up. The difference is that the first one was off a miss while the second was off a made field goal. This speaks of their ability to push the tempo off great defensive play as well as catching Globalport’s defense unaware. This ability to hunt for early scoring opportunities as well as their growing familiarity with Coach Austria’s system will be a dangerous combination going forward. Here’s a bonus clip of the MVP connection as Fajardo hit Santos with a full court bullet pass for the lay-up to cap off a great day.
Free Throw Game
San Miguel dominated the free throw department as well. They actually fouled more than Globalport (22-19 personal fouls) but what they did well was attack the basket to force those freethrows. This is tied into their transition and probably why they didn’t have as many recorded fast break points as they were on the line a lot. Able to generate 27 freebies on 69 field goal attempts was huge as Lutz and Ross led the charge with a combined 12 attempts. They limited Globalport on the other hand with just 10 attempts. That is the result of good, honest defense, limiting lay-ups and forcing them to shoot contested jumpers. Even Pringle and Romeo were unable to break the Beermen’s defense as they only got to the line 4 times.
Point of Attack
In my opinion, the PG rotation has been San Miguel’s weakspot in this conference so far. That is why I was glad to see all three-point guards have solid contributions. It didn’t really matter who Coach Austria put on the floor as Ross, Mercado, and Jeric Fortuna had solid contributions all around. Ross led the Beermen’s transition attack, Mercado was able to find the open man consistently, while Fortuna had a bit of a scoring explosion as he hit back-to-back threes at one point. They didn’t allow Globalport’s guards to abuse them either.
Lutz the Big PG
Speaking of point guards, Chris Lutz continued his all-around good play as an initiator of the offense. He kept attacking the paint and either scored on lay-ups, got to the charity line, or dished off to teammates. He normed 10 points (2/5 FGs, 6/6 FTs) but more importantly, had 5 assists. I think he and his teammates are starting to understand how to use his ability to break down his defender as he’s been having good assist numbers the past few games. You simply have to look back when San Miguel (then Petron) was forced to play him as a PG when all 3 of their usual PG rotation were down with injury. He averaged something like 18/6/6 in that stretch, showing that he is fully capable of running an offense. That is a great advantage to have, especially if the other guards are having off-nights.
Though they did give up a few too many offensive rebounds and turnover points, I would consider that nit-picking on what was a solid effort from the Beermen, probably the best I’ve seen them defensively in a while. If they can continue to emulate this kind of play, they will definitely go far into the playoffs not just in this conference, but for the whole season.
Featured Image Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports5
Video Credit (for GIFs): PBARecap.org